Diabetic Foot Care 101: When to Seek Help for Common Podiatry Concerns

Diabetic Foot Care 101: When to Seek Help for Common Podiatry Concerns

Ever felt like your feet are a world away from your brain? For diabetics, this can be more than a metaphor! 

Nerve damage and reduced circulation, common complications of diabetes, can make it difficult to feel even minor foot issues and lead to early diabetes feet. That’s why diabetic foot care is crucial. But with diabetic foot calluses, bumps, and scrapes being a normal part of life, when does a common concern cross the line into needing a podiatrist’s expertise? 

In this guide, we’ll explore key podiatry concerns for individuals with diabetes and when it’s important to seek professional help to maintain optimal foot health and overall well-being. 

How does diabetes adversely affect your feet?

Diabetes can lead to two foot-related problems: 

  • Diabetic neuropathy: When diabetes is poorly controlled, it can disrupt nerves in your legs and feet, resulting in reduced sensation to heat, cold, or pain—a condition known as “sensory diabetic neuropathy.” If you have neuropathy, you may not feel cuts or sores on your feet, which can worsen and become infected. Nerve damage can also affect muscle function in your foot, leading to misalignment, diabetic foot pain, and increased pressure on certain areas. 
  • Peripheral vascular disease: Diabetes affects blood flow, causing delays in the healing of sores or cuts. This condition, known as “peripheral vascular disease,” results in poor blood circulation in the arms and legs. If you develop an infection that doesn’t cure due to poor blood flow, you may be at risk of developing ulcers or gangrene—a condition where tissue dies due to insufficient blood supply. 

What do diabetic feet look like?

Common features of diabetic feet issues include: 

  • Numbness or tingling: Diabetic neuropathy can lead to reduced sensation in the feet, causing a feeling of numbness or tingling. This can make it complex to detect injuries or wounds. 
  • Changes in skin colour: Poor blood flow associated with peripheral vascular disease can cause the skin on the feet to appear pale, bluish, or discoloured. 
  • Skin changes: The skin on diabetic feet may become dry, cracked, or flaky due to reduced moisture and poor circulation. Additionally, wounds or sores may heal slowly or not at all. 
  • Foot deformities: Nerve damage and muscle weakness can lead to foot deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, or Charcot foot (a condition where the bones weaken and collapse). 
  • Ulcers or infections: Due to decreased sensation and impaired healing, diabetic feet are prone to developing ulcers (open sores) that can become infected in case they aren’t properly managed. 

When should you seek help for common diabetes feet issues or podiatry concerns?

For individuals with diabetes, the following common foot issues can escalate into infections and thus call for expert consultation: 

  • Athlete’s Foot: Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection characterized by itching, redness, and cracking of the skin. Cracks in the skin make way for germs to enter, leading to infection. Medications that target the fungus, available in the form of pills or creams, are used to treat athlete’s foot. 
  • Fungal Nail Infection: Fungal nail infections can cause discolouration (yellowish-brown or opaque), thickening, and brittleness. In severe cases, the nail may crumble or separate from the nail bed. The warm, moist environment inside shoes can promote fungal growth, especially after nail injuries. 
  • Calluses: Calluses are areas of thickened, hard skin, often found on the underside of the foot due to uneven weight distribution or ill-fitting shoes. While some calluses are normal, those causing discomfort may require attention from a doctor. 
  • Corns: Corns are areas of hard skin that develop near bony parts of toes or between toes, often due to friction from poorly fitting shoes. Proper care is essential to manage corns effectively. 
  • Blisters: Blisters can form when shoes rub against the skin repeatedly. Ill-fitting shoes or going sockless can increase the risk of blisters, which may become infected if not managed properly. 
  • Bunions: Bunions occur when the big toe angles toward the second toe, leading to redness, calluses, and a protruding joint. Severe cases may require surgical intervention. 
  • Dry Skin: Diabetes can cause dry, cracked skin that is vulnerable to infection. Moisturizing soaps and lotions recommended by a doctor can help maintain skin integrity. 
  • Diabetic Ulcers: Foot ulcers are breaks in the skin or deep sores that can become infected. They may develop from minor injuries, slow-healing cuts, or friction caused by poorly fitting shoes. 
  • Hammertoes: Hammertoes result from weakened muscles causing toe deformity, leading to curling under the foot. This condition can be due to genetic issues or ill-fitting shoes, resulting in walking difficulties and skin issues. 
  • Ingrown Toenails: Ingrown toenails occur when nail edges grow into the skin. The first stage diabetes toenails may also cause pain, swelling, and infection. Proper nail care is crucial to prevent complications. 

Tips for Diabetic Foot Care

Following are some of the ways you can take care of your feet if you are diabetic: 

  • Perform a daily foot check to look for cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any changes to the skin or nails. If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, use a mirror or seek assistance from a family member. 
  • Cleanse your feet daily with warm (not hot) water, avoiding soaking them. Ensure your feet are thoroughly dried, and apply lotion to the top and bottom surfaces—except between the toes—to prevent infection. 
  • Avoid going barefoot and always wear shoes or slippers, even indoors, to prevent injury. Before wearing shoes, check for any debris inside and ensure the lining is smooth. 
  • Choose well-fitting shoes by trying them on at the end of the day when your feet are largest. Gradually break in new shoes over time, wearing them for short periods until they are fully comfortable. Wear socks with your shoes at all times. 
  • Trim your toenails straight across and gently file any sharp edges. If you have difficulty seeing or reaching your feet, consult a podiatrist for nail trimming. 
  • Do not attempt to remove corn or calluses yourself and avoid using over-the-counter products that may cause skin irritation. 
  • Include foot checks during every healthcare visit and schedule an annual (or more frequent if you have nerve damage) comprehensive foot exam with a podiatrist to assess sensation and blood flow in your feet. 
  • Promote blood flow by elevating your feet while seated and regularly wiggling your toes throughout the day. 

Diagnosis for early diabetes feet is crucial.

Get in touch with our podiatrist, Dr KP Meda for the right treatment and care tips 

Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes-related foot issues are critical for preventing complications and maintaining overall health. If you’re concerned about your diabetic foot health or experiencing symptoms, it’s important to seek guidance from a specialized podiatrist like Dr. KP Meda. 

He can provide the right treatment, care tips, and personalized recommendations to manage and improve your foot health. Don’t wait—schedule a consultation with Dr Meda today to prioritize your diabetic foot care journey and ensure the best outcomes for your well-being. 

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